Loosening of some restrictions sees hope for smaller PNE this summer

Scaled down PNE on way

Plans are in the works for the 111th year of Vancouver’s Pacific National Exhibition this summer.

On May 25, British Columbia entered the first phase of a four-phase plan to reduce public health orders and restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. While not all restrictions have been lifted, the news has offered a glimmer of hope to many across the province, including PNE organizers.

“We were very pleased to hear yesterday’s announcement. It’s fair to say that we are cautiously optimistic, and have restarted our planning for an in-person fair,” said Laura Ballance, PNE spokesperson. “Whatever we plan will look different, and daily capacities will be much smaller.”

In an April announcement, the PNE's CEO indicated the fair’s future was at stake due to unprecedented financial losses incurred over the pandemic.

At the time, CEO Shelly Frost stated that "all of the major events had to be cancelled in 2020" and that the PNE is a staggering $8 million in debt. "We are forecasted to be $15 million in debt by the end of 2021," she said.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said that the PNE as we "now know and love it could end" despite the city's backstopping of its line of credit. Kennedy added he hoped Premier John Horgan would come to the table and provide the support that the PNE needs.

Around the same time, Playland announced it would not open as previously announced in an effort to support the provincial "circuit breaker" established in the wake of soaring COVID-19 cases. The amusement park was slated to open May 1 but organizers decided to remain closed until after the May Long weekend.

Then, earlier this month, the PNE announced it was clear that the number of guests required to make an in-person fair financially viable would not be allowed under the Public Health Orders anticipated to be in effect this summer.

Whether this reduced reopening will make a significant dent in the PNE's debts is unclear, but Ballance said this latest announcement is a good one all around.

“Although it won’t look the same as our traditional fair, we are excited to bring British Columbia some of their favourites. I will also say this is great news for our staff team as well as our long-time concessionaires,” Ballance said.

More announcements are expected in the coming weeks as plans are finalized.

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